By Oluwayemisi Owonikoko

Black velvet tamarind popularly known as Awin in Yoruba, Icheku in Igbo and Tsamiyar kurm in Hausa is also called licki-licki is a fruit endowed with lots of benefits for man’s health.

Black velvet whose botanical name is Dialium Guineense, belongs to the family of Fabaceae and sub-family of Caesalpinioideae and it is a fruit from a tree that grows well in the Savannah forests, canyons, and gallery forests.

It is common to some West African countries, no wonder it got so many names with such countries such as Nigerian velvet tamarind or Africa velvet tamarind, Sierra Leone tamarind, black Velvet Tamarind.

The fruit is seasonal with a sweet and tangy taste found in Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Mali, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and some other African countries.

It is also grown in other African countries, such as Senegal and Ghana where it is known as Yoyi.

Its cultivation has extended to other tropical Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.

The tree can grow up to 30m, and produce densely populated leaves and whitish flowers.

The bark is greyish and produces reddish gum. The bark and leaves of the plant are used in traditional medicine in some clime.

The tree normally produces flowers from September to October, and fruits from October to January, or March to May in some locations.

The twig of the plant is used locally as a chewing stick. The gum obtained from the seed is used to add viscosity to foods. The seed powder of black velvet tamarind is a substitute for coffee in India.

Black velvet tamarind produces abundant fruits that are a bit circular or somewhat flat. It is dark and heavily velvety. The seed is enclosed in a brittle shell, dry, brownish, sweetly acidic, edible pulp, which can be eaten after peeling the shell, is hard and has a seed, or rarely two seeds, the pulp is red or orange pulp that is sticky when moist, and a brown circular flat seed and astringent flavour. The pulp can also be used for flavouring snacks, making jellies, and beverages.

Apart from savouring its taste, it has so many health benefits.

According to studies, the seed and pulp of the black velvet tamarind have varying levels of moisture, dry matter, ash, organic matter, crude fat, crude fibre, carbohydrate, and protein. The lipid content of the seed is higher than the pulp. The level of protein is high, as can be deduced from the fact that the fruit is from the legumes subfamily.

The fruit contains a high level of fructose and glucose. There are vitamins such as ascorbic acid, B-carotene and tocopherol, and minerals such as iron, zinc, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper, vitamin C than the seed. The pulp also contains dietary fiber, which helps to improve bowel movement and protect the colon against cancerbecause of its antioxidant content.

Its component also aids in treatments of ailments like ulcer, malaria, diarrhea, reduction of inflammation,

Black velvet tamarind also performs analgesic action, improves dental health, performs anti-hemorrhoidal activity, and protects the liver because of its ability to act as toxic waste removal as well as improves lactation in nursing mothers.

Black Velvet Tamarind has potassium content, which helps regulate water and acid-base balance in the blood and tissues and odies can only ingest potassium through potassium-rich foods or fruits as the body does not naturally produce it. Therefore, the intake of black velvet tamarind will provide the body with enough potassium it needs to conduct the body’s electrical impulses.

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